Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.

Recent Articles

Can Insiders Be Outsiders?

I magine that you're Senator Tom Daschle. You have two somewhat conflicting goals. One is to block the worst parts of the Bush program, this year. The other is to move down the hall to the big office, the one that says Majority Leader instead of Minority Leader, probably in November 2002. You could get lucky, so to speak. Either of the doddering ultras from the Carolinas, Thurmond or Helms, could tip partisan control of the 50–50 Senate by passing on to their respective rewards before the midterm elections (maybe to some integrated private hell where they will be eternal servants to black, lesbian millionaire performance artists). But I digress. Tom Daschle can't exactly count on the demise of Thurmond or Helms, and it is unseemly to wish for it. Strom Thurmond is not entirely compos mentis, but at 98 the fellow does push-ups. And if sheer meanness keeps a man alive, Jesse Helms could outlast half the Senate. So if Daschle does become majority leader, he will probably have to do it...

Comment: Lose that Eyeshade

S enate Democratic leaders, stung by criticism that they have failed to challenge the Bush administration's assault on civil liberties, are taking comfort from their goal-line stand against the latest round of proposed tax cuts. Yet as we approach the 2002 off-year elections, the Democrats could easily repeat the mistakes of the Clinton era by trying to make fiscal rectitude their mantra. The other day, White House budget director Mitch Daniels told Congress that he expected the budget to be in deficit for the next three years. That admission ought to whet Democrats' appetite for repealing Bush's $1.35-trillion tax cut. However, far too many Democrats are reverting to an old, discredited playbook. In 1998, Bill Clinton worried that endless surpluses would lead to Republican tax cuts. So he declared that fiscal policy should "Save Social Security First." Depending on what sort of gloomy accounting you used, Social Security could be shown to be so far in the red that it could soak up...

Comment: Happier Prospects

A s we go to press, the prospect of Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords switching parties has cheered despondent Democrats. However, it's not clear where a party-switch free-for-all would end, since several maverick senators in both parties would be in play. Of course, having Tom Daschle as majority leader, and having the power to orchestrate hearings, could be very important for Democrats, in setting agendas, exposing abuses, blocking extremist nominees, and restoring morale and momentum. Loss of the Senate would be a personal as well as a philosophical rebuke to Bush, and a broader warning to the White House about the risks of overreaching. But before we break out the champagne, remember that four or five Senate Democrats still seem inclined to vote with Bush, and Jeffords doesn't change that. The fact remains that Democrats, hobbled by defectors in their own ranks, are still fighting mostly a rearguard action. There is no coherent alternative program rousing popular excitement, and a...

Comment: Love-Hate Relationship

With the possible exception of Lyndon Johnson, no modern Democratic president has divided his own core constituency more bitterly than William Jefferson Clinton. The conversation between Clinton's loyalists and critics, some of it published in these pages, often reads like a dialogue of the deaf. About the only thought both camps share is that Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky was not helpful--and that may actually be wrong. The loyalists think the critics are giving short shrift to Clinton's genuine accomplishments in arduous times. The critics fault Clinton for turning expediency into principle, pushing politics farther to the right than circumstances required. Join the conversation! Discuss this article in Political Prospects , part of The American Prospect's Online Forums . The loyalists' litany goes something like this: Clinton freed Democrats of the unfortunate legacy of a party that was seen as soft on crime and welfare dependency, beholden to narrow interest groups,...

Comment: The Democrats Make Nice

W hat is Tom Daschle up to? "In this divided government," he declared upon becoming Senate majority leader, "we are required to find common ground and seek meaningful bipartisanship." He told the press he would not seek repeal of even the most ill considered portions of President Bush's tax cut. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Daschle added, "I believe the only way forward is to embrace a spirit of principled compromise." He invoked campaign finance reform as a bill on which both parties compromised and moved forward. Daschle seems to be up to several things. One is to be the non-Bush, distinguishing himself from the man who campaigned as a conciliator but has governed as a partisan. The second is to hold together his slender majority, which unfortunately contains several quasi-Republicans. The third is to give the media elite what they insist the public wants. Daschle's conciliatory June 10 op-ed piece echoed the Times's editorial advice of a week earlier: "Mr. Daschle can answer...

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